Should we participate in the Best Place to Work contest?

Best place to work contest

By Jason Lauritsen

As a growing company, differentiating yourself as an employer of choice is critical to attracting talent. Being named to a “Best Place to Work” list is a powerful way to show your commitment to creating a great workplace for employees.

There are Best Places to Work contests in most cities, often several different competing programs. There are state and national contests as well. Your industry might even have its own contests (i.e., healthcare). If you are motivated to pursue recognition of this type, you have plenty of options.

But should you?

As someone who ran these programs for a few years, I am commonly asked by both business leaders and HR professionals if they should enter one. My answer: it depends.

In most cases, entering an employer of choice contest requires participation from your employees, usually in the form of an employee survey. This decision should be made thoughtfully because participation in this program will have side effects that can be either positive or negative, depending on your approach.

Below are some questions to help you decide if participating in a Best Place to Work contest is a good idea for your organization.

1. Is your organization actively investing in trying to be an amazing workplace for your employees?

Most of these programs use employee satisfaction and engagement as the primary measurement of a best place to work. If your leadership team isn’t committed to employee engagement and creating a great workplace for employees, you might want to hold off on a contest for now because it could backfire.

When you participate in a contest like this and send the survey to employees, it sends a message that you (HR and/or leadership) think you are worthy of recognition. If your employees haven’t seen or heard of any real internal efforts to improve their work experience, this can feel disconnected and dishonest – fueling disengagement.

On the other hand, if your organization regularly talks about and acts to improve employee engagement, then employees will probably feel like taking a best place to work survey makes sense and further reinforces their experience.

2. Are you prepared not to make the list?

These contests are competitive, particularly for small and medium-sized companies. In some cases, only a fraction of those who enter are recognized. So, if you are considering participating, expect that you may not make the list the first time.

Before you decide to participate, you need to play out how you will respond and communicate to employees if you fail to make the list. By sending out the survey as part of the process, you’ve communicated to your employees that the organization is committed to becoming a best place to work. If your executives aren’t able or willing to communicate uncomfortable messages, it might be best to hold off on participating.

Not making the list can be a powerful opportunity to reinforce your commitment to the employee experience, but you must have a plan for what comes next. Which brings me to the following question.

3. Are you prepared to take feedback from the process and do something with it?

Employer of choice contests are a great opportunity to compare your culture and work experience to your industry peers. Generally, you can gain some great insights and feedback to benchmark your internal practices against other organizations with whom you compete for talent.

But you must be prepared to do something with this information. Any time you survey employees, the two most important things you must do are communicate what you heard through the survey and then take some visible action informed by the results. This process is no different. To participate without following up by sharing results and an action plan can harm your relationship with employees.

No one likes to be asked for their opinion only to have it disregarded or ignored. If you choose to participate, take full advantage of the feedback by ensuring you have a plan in place to close the loop and demonstrate follow-up action.

Making the call

If your organization is fully committed to creating a great place to work and you are actively investing time and energy in doing so, participating in a Best Place to Work contest can be a great opportunity and a useful tool. Just remember that what’s most important in the process isn’t making the list but using the process to support your efforts and reinforce your commitment to creating a great workplace.

Good luck!


About the Author

Jason Lauritsen is a keynote speaker and employee engagement expert who has dedicated his career to helping leaders and employees create a more fulfilling work experience. For nearly a decade, he spent his days as a corporate Human Resources executive where he developed a reputation for driving business results through talent. Most recently, he led the research team for Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work program where he has studied the employee experience at thousands of companies to understand what the best workplaces in the world do differently than the rest.

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